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How Does Paid Parental Leave Compare Around the World?

Most countries in the world offer federally mandated paid parental leave. The benefits of paid parental leave are well-documented. Paid parental leave supports children’s growth and development, improves the physical and emotional health of mothers, fathers, and children, supports family economic security, builds stronger bonds, and more. This infographic by Playground Equipment explores paid parental leave around the world:

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Is Maternity Leave Required in the United States?

No: Maternity leave in the United States is not federally mandated. In fact, the U.S. is considered to be the only wealthy nation that offers no national paid parental leave. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 23% of workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, with federal workers receiving more opportunities. How much paid parental leave does the U.S. offer to federal employees? The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers in connection with the birth or placement (as in adoption or foster care) of a child.

Why Doesn’t the U.S. Have Paid Family Leave?

Despite the fact that paid parental leave is generally not a controversial topic elsewhere in the world, it struggles to make progress in the United States. Advocates for paid parental leave argue that paid leave is fundamental for supporting the well-being of parents and babies. Furthermore, some studies show that paid parental leave boosts women’s participation in the workforce and helps reduce gender pay gaps. Supporters also state that paid parental leave is an investment in the emotional and physical health of the family unit, which can contribute to economic success overall.

Why is paid parental leave bad, according to those against it? The primary argument is that it harms employers. A specific argument against paternal leave is that it can harm a man’s career in the long term, as they may be passed over for promotions or given lower pay. However, a counterargument is that when fathers play a more active, present role in their children’s lives, there are immense short-term and long-term personal, social, and economic benefits.

What Country Has the Most Maternal Leave?

Here are the countries that offer the most paid maternal leave in the world:

  1. Estonia — 84.4 weeks
  2. Bulgaria — 69.7 weeks
  3. Hungary — 68.2 weeks
  4. Lithuania — 62 weeks
  5. Slovakia — 53.1 weeks
  6. Bosnia and Herzegovina — 52 weeks
  7. Montenegro — 52 weeks
  8. Latvia — 51.6 weeks
  9. Austria — 49.4 weeks
  10. Slovenia — 48.4 weeks

Here are some additional resources that explore the benefits of maternity leave, benefits of paternity leave, and more: